Skills

Lessons of a Newbie Blogger and Twitter User

cloud-71366_640This Christmas was unexpected. For me, the perfect Christmas is sitting in front of a roaring fire with mulled wine, tea and chocolate oranges, the turkey cooking slowly and a notebook next to me for those moments of inspiration. We decorated the house with fairy lights and candles in preparation for my in laws coming to stay. I was secretly hoping for writing-related presents – book vouchers and beautiful stationery – and some kids-free time to get stuck into my novel. Unfortunately, our plans were hijacked by storms which left us with power outages for four days. Cue extended trips to my parents’ with my in laws, adventures by torch-light, a hastily cobbled together Christmas dinner and bonding with the neighbours in the same situation. Thankfully we’re now back on the grid – hooray! – and I’m ready to reclaim the lost relaxation and writing time.

For my last blog post for this year I wanted to share a few thoughts on Twitter and blogging.

Twitter

When I initially started using Twitter in 2010 I didn’t hang around for long. I just didn’t get it.

My first tweet was: Gardening.

My second tweet was: Turns out might take a while to get used to Twitter. Wanted to search for something, and ended up posting it. Thankfully it wasn’t porn.

Twitter seemed to me to be merely a way to stalk celebrities or to duplicate the function of facebook but without the space to write what you really want to. I was listening but not interacting.

It was in 2013 after I started blogging when I posted an article that @raishimi commented on and retweeted that I really started to understand the beauty of Twitter. It has allowed me to discover so many voices that would have previously remained silent to me. Some of these voices have become so special to me that I miss them if I or they tune out for a couple of days. I am always thrilled to download books to my Kindle that have been written by people who I admire or have piqued my curiosity on Twitter. It amazes me how generous fellow writers on Twitter are with their support and encouragement and I am grateful for it.

Then there’s the flip side. There are only so many hours in the day and while I try to interact with interesting new voices and read their works, there are only a certain amount of relationships that can be sustained at a meaningful level. That’s a shame for the connections you miss out on deepening. If I’m honest, while Twitter is by its very nature egalitarian, it still sometimes feels like we’re in a school playground, picking people to play on our teams. Once you have more than a few hundred followers, #FollowFriday and #WriterWednesday feel like favouritism, which is one of the reasons I like #FridayPhrases so much.

@drewchial and @szwrites have both blogged about the industry wisdom that champions the need to market ourselves as writers ideally before our first books even hit the shelves. Social media can be a black hole, sucking away time from our real passion – crafting stories. Yes, I enjoy social media but it has become too easy for me to substitute interacting on Twitter, writing a blog post or piece of flash fiction with working on my novel. For me, 2014 is the year of the novel and everything else comes second.

Blogging

I’ve missed blogging during this lull over the past few weeks. It helps me collect my thoughts. Isaac Asimov once said, ‘writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.’ I used to spill everything onto scraps of paper or journals. If I am worried about something now or confused, my default has become blogging. I blogged when my daughter choked earlier this year. I blogged when I felt family and friends were intruding on my space. I blogged to tell my husband publicly that his belief in me is the difference sometimes between me picking up a pen and hiding in a corner.

One of the reasons I decided to start blogging was to become more accustomed to sharing my work. Over this past year, I have grown more comfortable with the sharing. The question for 2014 is whether I can share more fiction with you, if I can share my writing with friends as well as strangers, and if I can be as comfortable with criticism.

When I initially started to blog I discovered that bloggers are advised to write short pieces which include lists and photos, essentially ensuring that posts are easily scannable and can be consumed in a few minutes.  But it seems to me that we are making assumptions about readers here, or worse still, influencing reader tastes in a negative way, feeding them a poor diet and creating generations of superficial readers and headline grabbers. Difference in voices, differences in form are what makes writing – and reading – so special, and I’d like to think that even on blogs readers want to go to the effort to really dive into our fictional and non-fictional worlds because it is in that space, when you are fully, not superficially in someone’s head, that you really get to experience the fullness of someone else’s life.

Wishing you a wonderful end to the year. See you in 2014.

4 thoughts on “Lessons of a Newbie Blogger and Twitter User

  1. Finding balance with social media has been hard for me. At first I wanted nothing to do with Twitter or a blog, etc. Then I found myself spending the whole day on Twitter and writing and commenting on blog posts and there was no time for my novel. What’s interesting is, I’ve found that the blog has been helpful in fueling my creativity. I just need to find a way to take that creativity and apply it to my novel writing and still spend time with my husband.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. My experience has been similar and it’s a really important point that writers need time to sustain their real relationships too. There is never an end to our work and it helps to have an understanding, patient partner. Look forward to checking out your blog, n

  2. I’ve decided a few months ago that I really truly wanted to pursue writing, and here I am now with a Twitter account, a blog, and working on a book. And that’s on top of real life as well. It’s definitely one crazy juggle, but we have to make prioritizing part of our schedule, and if we can learn to do that, then I believe things get a lot easier on us.

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